Crippled HK$27 billion Jinsha River hydro plant badly built, says official

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 May, 2014, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 4:54pm

A hydropower plant where a sluice gate was reportedly washed away last year was poorly built, a senior official has said.

Chinese Enterprise News reported yesterday that the gate, on the Ludila hydropower station on the Jinsha (Yangtze) River, was swept away on June 29 last year, leaving its three turbines idle.

But Yunnan Jinsha River Hydropower Co, which runs the plant, said the "abnormal water discharge" had already been addressed and power generation had resumed.

A spokesman for China Huadian Corporation, the investor behind the 21.9 billion yuan (HK$27.5 billion) project, said experts had not yet finished an investigation into the incident and he could give no further details.

Liu Qi , a deputy director of the National Energy Administration, blamed poor construction of the hydropower plant when speaking at a meeting in March that considered the construction quality of China's dams, according to an official document seen by the South China Morning Post. "Quality problems have already emerged in recent years ... they haven't had a great social impact yet but the quality concerns and problems are getting more prominent," Liu told the meeting. He cited the Ludila project as an example.

Ma Jun , of the Institute of Public & Environmental Affairs, said problems with hydropower plants had caused "irreversible damage" to the Jinsha River, part of the upper reaches of the Yangtze, and could wipe out many precious marine species.

"Some power companies have been pursuing quick approvals and construction of dams for economic returns, and the potential risks of these quality issues are yet to be investigated and exposed," he said.

"I think it is worth looking into why the hydro plant operator failed to inform the public, as such accidents could pose huge safety risks to communities along the river."

The China Huadian spokesman refused to comment on Liu's remarks.

China Enterprise News quoted the dam's designer as saying the sluice gate was sliced off when the volume of water gushing through it reached three times that which it was designed to handle. It estimated the economic losses at 600 million yuan, as the plant could not deliver as much electricity as it had contracted to supply.

The hydropower station first came under the spotlight when construction of its 140-metre dam was halted by the Ministry of Environmental Protection in June 2009.

China Huadian had cut off the river to build the dam without getting approval for its environmental impact review. The project did not get official approval until 2012.

The project, and others on the Jinsha River, have sparked strong opposition from environmental groups since the early 2000s.